Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gordis' Gorging of J Street

From the May 3rd address of Rabbi Daniel Gordis to the "J Street Leadership Mission to Israel and 'Palestine'":-

LET ME begin with a basic assumption: I assume that we want the same thing. We seek two states in this region, one a thriving, Jewish, democratic Israel, and the other a thriving, non-Jewish, democratic Palestine...[and] the vast majority of Israelis, if presented with a genuine opportunity to live side by side in a democratic, transparent, peaceful, demilitarized Palestine, would accept it.

So, assuming that’s what you also seek, I assume our disagreement is about how to get there. You believe that people who are not willing to make major territorial concessions to the Palestinians right now are not serious about a two-state solution...[that] if we’re not willing now to make the concessions that you think are called for, then we’re not really pursuing peace.

But that is arrogance of the worst sort. Does your distance from the conflict give you some moral clarity that we don’t have? Are you smarter than we are? Are you less racist? Why do you assume with such certainty that you have a monopoly on the wisdom needed to get to the goal we both seek?

...this is what J Street had to say: “...Obviously, reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas] reduces that obstacle...”

“Obviously,” you say, reconciliation reduces the obstacle to a peace treaty.

But I would caution you against ever using the word “obviously” when it comes to the Middle East. Nothing here is obvious. If you think that something is obvious, then you simply haven’t thought enough. Why is it obvious that Fatah’s signing a deal with Hamas, which rejects Israel’s very right to exist, reduces obstacles to peace? Isn’t it just as plausible that it makes peace impossible, or that signing a deal and returning large swathes of land to a group still sworn to our destruction would be suicidal? go on to say that “skeptics of a two-state agreement have immediately stepped forward to say that a deal is impossible with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.”  There you go again, telling us that if we don’t agree with you, then we’re not serious or honest...In your worldview, there’s no possibility that we’re just a bit more nervous than you are, that we do not want to make a mistake that will turn our own homes into Sderot, that we are frightened of restoring the horror of 2000-2004 to our streets, buses and restaurants.

No, that possibility doesn’t exist, because anyone who doesn’t agree with you is by definition a “skeptic of the two-state agreement.”

I’d suggest that if you want to convince those of us still deciding whether you’re part of the big tent that you are “in,” that you drop this sort of condescension. It’s arrogant and intellectually shallow; it doesn’t serve you well.

...There are groups who are clearly opposed to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state; they are our enemies. It doesn’t matter if they are in Israel or outside, or if they are Jewish or not. If they are working to end Israel, or to end it as a Jewish and democratic state, then they are our enemies, plain and simple. There are enemies who cannot be loved or compromised into submission, and you need to recognize that.

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement is a case in point. No one in their right mind doubts that BDS is opposed to Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state. So why were they invited to your annual conference?...
...For years, Israel had been failing the citizens of Sderot. But when Israel finally decided to do what any legitimate state would do, J Street immediately called for a cessation of hostilities. The war was only hours old, nothing had been accomplished and the citizens of Sderot were still no safer than they had been. But J Street had had enough.

Why? Why had you said almost nothing for all the years that Sderot was being shelled, but within hours of the war’s beginning were calling for it to end? What matters more to you – the safety of Israel’s citizens, or advancing your own moral agenda in our region of the world?...Why would you assume that we’re stupid, or immoral, or addicted to the conflict? Why do you insist that the Fatah-Hamas agreement is a good thing, or that it’s best for Israel if the US twists its arm even harder? At a time when Israel is so alone, can you see why it’s hard for many of us to buy the argument that you’re genuinely pro-Israel, or that you should be part of the big tent?

...Show us that you seek peace...but that even more (yes, more, because that’s what the particularism of peoplehood requires), that you care about us. It’s one thing to put “pro-Israel” in your tag line, and another to be “pro-Israel.”...
POSTSCRIPT: In the Q&A session that followed, J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami asked the first question. He said that he found it “astounding” that I had given an entire presentation “without mentioning the occupation of another people.”

But...Vered Kellner, who traveled with the group...noted that Fayyad didn’t mention the occupation either...Ben-Ami [said] “neither Gordis nor Fayyad raised the occupation, but we’re here to remind Israelis that you can’t pretend that the occupation isn’t part of reality.”

...If the way that you’re framing the issues is no longer the way that Israelis and Palestinians are discussing them, is it possible that you are not even addressing the core issues that matter to the people actually in the conflict? Perhaps..[your are] assuaging your own discomfort with the undeniably painful complexities of this conflict. If what you want to do is affect policy, how effective would you say you’ve been thus far?



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